Friday, March 27, 2009


I've been having a bit of an internal tug of war lately.

I've been feeling a bit guilty about the amount of time I spend writing this blog about my family (and reading other blogs) versus the time I spend, you know... spending time with my family.

I purposefully took a little break from both (a little cold turkey), and found that once the cycle was broken, I didn't feel the need to keep up with all the blog reading I had set up for myself. I had a bit of withdrawal, but I think I am able to go back now, and pick and choose from among the few dozen blogs I liked to peruse and pare down my list to a choice few.

I also learned to forgive myself for not blogging every single week. Or twice a week, for that matter, as I had been trying to do. In my internet wanderings I once found a badge you could put on your blog that said "Guilt Free Blog" showing your determination to not allow your blog to take over your life; not to feel bad if you don't constantly blog. I never put that badge up but I think I can live by that principle and write when it gives me pleasure or I feel so inspired.

I know it dismays the Grandmas when there is a big lag between grandchildren reports. And I know some folks who pop in daily to see if I've written a new post might wander away with boredom if I have long lags (I hope you folks will discover feed readers instead!). On the other hand, it pleases the hubby to have me hang out and watch a movie with him instead of using free evening time to write and photoshop. And perhaps adding other activities into my life might be beneficial. Yoga has piqued my interest lately.

On the other other hand, I have about a thousand photos waiting to be imported, culled and filed. Which actually gives me pleasure when I sit down and do it.

So, I have been thinking a lot about, and trying to achieve, some balance.

Anyway... I haven't abandoned you! I will come in, sometimes daily, sometimes weekly, sometimes every 20 days... but I will keep on posting. I just won't let this blog, which has given me a lot of pleasure, become a tedious job.

So, there.

(grin... wink!)

And on that note, I leave you with the easiest of blog material ever... (which maybe I should use more often since it is so full of grandma-pleasing-goodness) VIDEO! Video of me just sitting down with my kids and seeing what they do. Nothing hysterical... just day in the life.

Okay, Mom. Feelin' better now? ;^P

Friday, March 6, 2009

Step Away From the Technology!

On the topic of getting our children to turn off the TV, the computer game and the XBox and just go outside and PLAY, I thought I would share with you this video of a commercial for a laundry detergent from Europe. It's a good illustration for yesterday's post of getting back to nature.


Thursday, March 5, 2009

Last Child in the Woods

When you were a kid, did you have that special place you would go, somewhere in nature, back when kids were allowed to roam free without telling their parents EXACTLY where they were going? A place where you felt you belonged, a place you claimed as your own? A place in the woods? The edge of a creek? A great climbing-tree? A large bush, even, with a hole you could crawl into and hide?

Do you remember how empowered and peaceful you felt hanging out all by yourself or with your friends in nature?

I've been thinking a lot about this lately...

Has it ever occurred to you that we have taken this amazing experience away from our children in just a couple generations? With all the fear of kidnapping and molestation at every turn, we are prohibiting our kids from walking home from school, having free range of the neighborhood or even leaving the front yard, much less giving them the freedom to explore the few wild places left near our homes.

Kids nowadays, I assume because of the media-instilled fear of predators, are no longer allowed to wander through their neighborhoods.

When I was 8, I had free range of a two block radius, including every backyard, and we could also go anytime we wanted to a quarry, a creek and a train track down the road from my house.

The quarry had once been a swimming hole where you could still see a frayed rope dangling from a bar placed there so kids could swing out over the water, let go, and drop in with a splash. In my time, we were told the water was not clean, but it provided lots of stone-skipping fun, and one could walk around it on a path through some trees.

Most kids in my neighborhood used to have to come home when the streetlights came on. One girl's family had a large farm bell on a tall post in their backyard that they would ring if it was time for her to come home, and it could be heard for blocks. Her parents trusted her not to leave the area in which she could hear that bell.

We played alone, in pairs and in packs. In the summer, we played outside from morning until dinner time, and then we often went out again after dinner. We would play "Ghost in the Graveyard" for hours, hopping neighbor's fences and hiding under bushes. We stole the sugar bowls out of our kitchens into which we dipped stalks of wild rhubarb to make them sweeter.

I suspect now, in my old neighborhood, most kids are allowed to play only in their yard (the backyard, of course, as the front has CARS driving by!) unless they get permission to go to another kid's yard, with that other kid's mom's permission, passing the protection of said child from one responsible adult to another. If they want to go down to the end of the road, I am guessing they go with a parent and are not allowed to place pennies on the railroad track, much less throw rocks into passing train cars or cross the tracks and wade in the stream, jumping from rock to rock catching crayfish.

The field there is now a tennis court, and a city-built skate park. The quarry has been filled in and the ring of wild trees around it has been cut down. It's a flat mowed lawn now.

Last week, I had the opportunity to see a lecture given by Richard Louv, the author of the book I am currently reading called, Last Child in the Woods. Louv argues that children are spending less and less time on unstructured play in nature, at a time when it is critical to do so, and their lives and the future of our planet are being severely impacted. When children are outside, it is usually in scheduled, structured team activities, or on playgrounds with soft turf, short slides, and rubber around the chains on the swings.

Children are more obese, less creative, less active, less pro-active, more fearful, less knowledgeable about the natural world than their counterparts were just a couple generations ago: kids who played in their local ravines, caught tadpoles in the stream, and played in their forts in the nearby copse of trees at the end of their streets.

Consider this:
· In 1971, 80% of 7 to 8 year-olds were allowed to walk to school on their own, whereas just 9% could do so in 1990.

· In 1990, only half as many 7 to 11 year olds as in 1971 were allowed to go to places other than school by themselves. What do you suppose it is now, in 2009?

· The age at which children are granted specific freedoms increased—the freedom permitted to a 7 year old in 1971 was permitted to the average 9.5 year old in 1990. It's been two more decades since then.

. Between 1981 and 1997, children’s free playtime dropped by an estimated 25%, and this change appears to be driven by increases in the amount of time children spend in structured activities. Their unstructured play time is mostly spent indoors with some sort of electronic media.

. Students in outdoor science programs improved their science testing scores by 27 percent (American Institutes for Research, 2005)

. Researchers at the University of Illinois have shown that the greener a child’s everyday environment, the more manageable their symptoms of attention-deficit disorder.

Richard Louv made a comment that really struck me during his talk. He said that most every environmentalist and conservationist working for change today had a transcendent experience in nature as a child. In a time, when we really need to change the way we live in order to make a healthier environment, we are prohibiting our children from having any kind of transcendent experience in nature.

If kids don't spend time in nature, they won't have the desire to take care of the environment, except in the abstract sense, and we don't have time for the abstract anymore.

While Louv feels that getting kids back outside at all is great progress, what he is really advocating is getting kids back to wild nature. Not soccer fields, not playgrounds, not landscaped parks, but woods, ravines, rivers, rocks, trails, lakes and beaches.

And he wouldn't mind if some of that time was alone time for the kids who can handle the responsibility.

Louv wants to get a grassroots movement going in America, much like playgroups and book clubs have taken off in the last few years. But he would like this movement to get families out into nature in groups, to make it more fun, more social, and more common. He calls them Family Nature Clubs. He wants groups of friends and neighbors to scoop up the kids, and meet somewhere out in nature on a regular basis, explore and just have fun together.

A light bulb went on for me when I heard this. My family does go out and walk one of San Diego's canyons on occasion, and we hike occasionally when my parents visit. But I had this thought a few months back to get a friend or two and their families out to the woods, at a day use area for a long afternoon of just hanging out, talking and letting the kids play in a natural environment. Climb on some rocks, wade in a creek. Get dirty. Richard Louv got me thinking, "why can't this be a regular thing?" And why just one or two other families?

So, if you are a friend of mine and live locally, don't be surprised if one day in the near future I invite you and your kids out for a day of rest and play at the day use area of Cuyamaca Rancho State Park or one of the other Day Use Parks in our area.

I am picturing everyone bringing sandwiches or campfire/barbecue foods for their own kids, a dish to share with everyone else, some camp chairs for the parents to hang out together. We would come out sometime after breakfast, and get home around dinner time. Lunch will be had in the out of doors. The kids can play, explore and climb, some folks can take a short hike, the adults can get some much needed social time with each other, and a good time will be had by all.

And if we like it... maybe we could do it every few weeks or so.

What do you say? Are you game?

Are there cool natural spaces you can take your kids near home? Like the idea of hanging with your friends and their kids once a month? Want to commit to vacationing someplace where you plop down in nature someplace and stay awhile instead of visiting amusement parks and cities?

Thoughts? Ideas?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Happy Birthday, Big Brother

Today is the 45th birthday of my brother, David. It kind of freaks me out that he and I are now firmly entrenched in our 40's. It probably freaks my parents out even more.

I want to thank David for sticking by me all these years... for letting me hang out with him and his friends in the backyard, even if I always ended up hurt and crying after a rough game of "Smear the Queer" (not that there is anything wrong with that).

He also taught me how to build an actual space rocket (a three seater!) in our local junkyard when I was in first grade that would have actually flown to the moon if only the vacuum tubes we could find scattered between the junker cars had not all been broken minus one.

He didn't freak out at all when I dated his roommate my first year of college, nor did he yell too much after I pulled all the unpaid pink parking tickets out of his glove compartment and spread them all over my lap while looking for the car registration for the cop that had just pulled him over (He might not have been so understanding if the cop had understood what he was looking at).

So, Happy Birthday, David. I lucked out when I got you as a big brother. I hope you have at least another 45 good years ahead. I love you.